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Nests and nurture

In Dinosaurs: Monster Families, we have a case dedicated to the animals who use nests to protect their eggs and raise their young.

Nests come in a huge range of shapes and sizes, using a variety of different materials. These hummingbird nests are incredibly intricate, lined with spider silk and camouflaged with lichen.

Hummingbird eggs are very small, but not relative to the adults' tiny size. On the other hand kiwis, native to New Zealand, lay the largest eggs compared to their body size.

Laying out the nest and egg related objects for our case.

The largest bird egg comes from the extinct Great Elephant Bird, once native to Madagascar. Their eggs were even larger than dinosaur eggs. These huge birds could be 3 metres tall and weigh half a tonne, more than the vast moas of New Zealand.

Some egg laying parents are very caring. Nile crocodiles are very ferocious hunters, capable of hunting fish and even antelope, but they are also nurturing parents, guarding their eggs and gently carrying their young to the water's edge once hatched.

Nile crocodiles dig a shallow hole a few metres from a water source and then cover them with the sand or soil for incubation. The eggs take about 90 days to hatch, and the female crocodiles will try their best not to leave the nest side during this time - pretty dedicated parenting.

Be sure to visit Dinosaurs: Monster Families to see dinosaur nests, as well as the eggs and nests of modern-day animals.

Crossing Borders 2016

This blog on Crossing Borders 2016 was written by our volunteer, Lily Lloyd.

Our annual Crossing Borders event encourages the integration of communities through workshops and activities. The Horniman Museum and Gardens hopes to generate a welcoming space for all. Here are few highlights of the day.

Visitors were invited to draw their journeys to London onto a world map that was on display throughout the event, along with post-it notes expressing things they missed about their home countries. Throughout the day the web of lines grew thicker, showing a huge variety of journeys, all with London as their destination.

Another part of the day was Memodrome: Home, an installation involving people talking about their experiences of growing up in Romania and their subsequent journeys to London. The wider project 'Immersive Theatre' is the culmination of two years’ work for Anca Doczi and her team. Visitors were invited to listen, ask questions and share notions of home.

Language, it is so important for me to communicate. I can do this in English and French but its not the same, its not home.
Diana Buluga a researcher from Immersive Theatre

The narratives intermingled, overlapping to create a single picture of home. Each speaker was surrounded by objects, photographs and video projections of the various places in Romania that they grew up. The immersive result was made from real stories and real interaction.

The installation proved engaging for all ages, with small children as well as adults captivated by the stories told and eager to ask questions. More information about this project can be found at www.immersivetheatre.com

Other events taking place were a windowsill gardening workshop organised by SDCAS. The children who took part were keen to show off their handiwork; and a creative writing workshop organised by Rewrite where the bodies of participants were used to explore language.

Overall there was a great sense of community across the museum with a fantastic turn out of people from all walks of life coming together to consider this important question of migration. A visitor said, ‘to me community means having something in common, it means working together.’ This is something that can definitely be said of Crossing Borders.


Carnival Now

Carnival Late is next week, so we have gathered some of our favourite images of carnivals happening around the world.

Carnival traditionally falls before the start of Christian Lent, but can be celebrated in many different ways by different cultures.


Photo of Carnival in Rio by Monty Moncrieff


#dreigestirn auf dem #wilhelmplatz in #nippes #alaaf #karneval

A photo posted by Oliver Brückner (@designbrueckner) on

More Carnivals 

Some more Carnival pics we enjoyed from:

Be sure to join us on 25 February and join the carnival at Carnival Late.

Meet the Artist: Luis Rey

We caught up with artist, Luis Rey, whose vivid artworks capture the exciting world of dinosaur families in our exhibition, Dinosaurs: Monster Families.

How would you describe your artwork?

I consider myself a "paleoillustrator", so my art skills are at the service of palaeontology and science. My art techniques range between the traditional acrylics and inks on cardboard, to the digital painting, where I use my computers as an "orchestra".

I have fun recreating the dinosaurs in a distinctive style, but always based on my research

Reconstructing dinosaurs has both a scientific responsibility and a labour of the imagination, we are restricted by science but fuelled by imagination.

What first interested you in dinosaurs?

I have always been interested in dinosaurs.  The Dinosaur Renaissance in the seventies and eighties saw dinosaurs became "real" animals living in a different (even if similar) natural world from ages ago.

Every dinosaur is amazing, but I think I have become more fascinated and specialised with the bird-dinosaur link, from the real look of winged Velociraptors and Oviraptors to protofeathered T. Rexes. 

How are your representations of dinosaurs unique?

I want my dinosaurs to be colourful but believable, some people might be surprised by seeing colourful dinosaurs after so many years of people reconstructing them in drab colours. I also like them dramatic.

Years ago I might also have started a personal trend towards a new, dramatic viewing angle to Dinosauria.

How do you create the scenes you paint?

First and foremost studying the anatomy of the animal, and seeing what I can provide in the artistic sense, then the sky is the limit.

Sometimes I simply paint, sometimes I even use photography, real skin, hair and feathers as digital brushes.

Dinosaurs: Monster Families is now open, you can book online and beat the queues or become a Member and enjoy free unlimited entry to the exhibition.

Name that Dino

Dinosaurs roamed the earth for nearly 150 million years, leaving us tantilising clues in the forms of fossils to try and piece together their world.

Dinosaurs have always been fascinating to humans, with extensive digs and studies unearthing species for hundreds of years, but what do you do when you find a dinosaur skeleton? Well, you have to name it and the naming of dinosaurs is as much of a science as the finding thing in the first place!

'Dinosaurs' are they really terrible lizards?

The word 'dinosaur' was coined by Sir Richard Owen an eminent biologist and comparative anatomist. An avid dinosaur reasercher, Owen worked with Benjamin Hawkins to produce the dinosaur skeletons that are now residents of Crystal Palace.

Dinosaur comes from two Greek words: Deinos (terrible - where we get the word dire from) + Sauros (lizard), so dinosaur = Terrible Lizard. This name reflects the contemporary scientific thought of the time, of dinosaurs as savage and scary creatures.

 An Utahceratops illustration

The same components are found in modern dinosaur names as well, combining sometimes two or three components to make a longer name. This name can also tell a paleontologist details about which family group a specimen is from.

Ceratops is a group of dinosaurs meaning horn face. Paleontologists can then add another element to describe dinosaurs within this group: Triceratops means Three Horn Face (because it has three horns). The name of a dinosaur can also tell you were it was discovered, like Utahceratops which means Utah Horn Face (a horned dinosaur discovered in Utah, USA).

Tarbosaurus Bataar, a name with Greek and Mongolian elements

Sometimes dinoasur names switch languages which can be another way of describing the dinosaur and where it was discovered. A vast Tarbosaurus Bataar skeleton is on display in our new exhibition Dinosaurs: Monster Families, but the name of this specimen is slightly complex.

Tarbosaurus means Alarming or Startling Lizard (Ancient Greek) but Bataar is Mongolian for Hero or Warrior. So the full name of our terrifying skeleton is: Alarming Hero Lizard, not only is that a pretty cool name, but the use of Mongolian refers to the species' find location.

With such an array of excellent names to have, we guessed you would want to have a dinosaur name as well, so have made a Dinosaur Name Finder based on the specimens in our displays and exhibition.

Be sure to tweet us your results and we can tell you a dino fact!

Dinosaurs: Monster Families open this weekend, you can pre book tickets online and avoid the queue.

Crocodile Conservation

Charlotte, our Conservation Officer, tells us about her work on a crocodile skull in preparation for its installation in Dinosaurs: Monster Families.

The skull and jaw (lower mandible) were incredibly dirty and were covered in an extremely thick layer of soot and dust. I removed the loose dust with a museum vacuum and soft brush and then gave the bones a further clean with alcohol on cotton wool swabs to remove the thicker layer of dirt.


Charlotte's cleaning a very dirty #crocodile #skull #conservator #conservation #dirt #museum #naturalhistory #london #swabswabswab #teeth

A video posted by Horniman Museum and Gardens (@hornimanmuseumgardens) on

You can see from the photos that the recesses in the skull that the teeth sit in are generally wider and deeper than the actual teeth causing the teeth to be loose in the skull. Originally, the teeth would have been held in place by periodontal ligaments but this tissue was removed during its preparation as a skeletal specimen.

Our curator wanted the skull to be displayed in a “life-like” open jaw pose and that meant I would need to secure the teeth back into the skull to prevent them from falling out.

To do this I used Japanese tissue paper which is a type of tissue made from the inner bark of the paper mulberry tree. Conservators use this tissue for all sorts of repairs and fills. In this case I created twists of tissue which I inserted between the teeth and bone. This filled the “void” space and created a contact area between the teeth and bone.

I soaked the tissue with a solvent based adhesive and once the adhesive dried the teeth were firmly secured in place.

The adhesive I used is reversible and that means that I can reactivate the adhesive and easily remove the Japanese tissue if a curator wants to analyse individual teeth in the future.

Now the skull and jaw can be displayed the correct way up without the loss of any teeth.

You can see our cleaned crocodile alongside dinosaur remains, eggs  and more in our new exhibition Dinosaurs: Monster Families that opens Saturday 13 February.

Jamrach's Legacy

Elle Larsson, curator and researcher of 'London's Urban Jungle' tells us her closing thoughts on the display and the exotic animal trade.


I wanted to create London's Urban Jungle to answer a question I think few of us actually think about – just why did zoological and natural history collections begin and grow so rapidly, and what facilitated that growth, particularly during the 19th century?

Also, and perhaps this is a more subtle message in the exhibition itself, I wanted to draw attention to the legacy of the animal trade and the fact that it still continues.

During the nineteenth century the exotic animal trade was closely associated with imperial and economic expansion. It was a branch of informal empire which helped project an image of imperial supremacy and individual wealth and led to the creation of the majority of collections we are familiar with today.

Since the turn of the 20th century, regulations have been introduced which aim to prevent and have largely made illegal a lot of the animal trade, however it does still go on around the world.

This is what I would most like people to take away - that actually this type of trading hasn’t entirely disappeared and that it remains detrimental to animal welfare.

Knowing the history behind such collections and being open about how and where they originated is one thing that we can do. Another is to continue working towards protecting the world’s wildlife in a way that animal dealers like Jamrach failed to do.

London's Urban Jungle is on display in the Natural History Gallery until 21 February.

You can find out more about the exotic animal trade and its legacy in our new Collections Story.

Horniman Dinosaurs

With our new exhibition Dinosaurs: Monster Families opening in a few weeks, we're taking a look at the dinosaurs already on display here.
What actually is a dinosaur?

We all probably have a pretty good image of what a dinosaur should be: big, scales, teeth, tendency to not adhere to theme park regulations.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Dinosaurs could be small, much smaller than a human, through to the titan sauropods that are measured in buses. Also, some dinosaurs had feathers and beaks.

In general, a dinosaur lives during the Mesozoic era (started about 250 million years ago) and they must have either lizard or bird like hips and live on land.

That means creatures like Pteordactyl, although from a similar time are actually pterosaurs, not technically a dinosaur.

Also, it is a misconception that dinosaurs are the 'terrible lizards' that their name means. Our new exhibition shows a new side to their family lives, how they hatched their eggs and raised their young. You still wouldn't cross a Tarbosaurus though...

The exhibition will welcome a whole host of new dinosaurs to the Horniman, so we had a look at the dinosaur models in our Natural History Gallery.


A family favourite, this herbivore lived about 150 million years ago in the Jurassic period. The spikey tail could have been used as a defense against attacking carnivores, and the spines along the back may have acted as defensive armour, or helped a stegasaurus manage it's body temperature.

Despite looking pretty formidable, stegasurus had a very small brain to body ratio meaning whilst it may have been good in a fight, it probably couldn't complete a sudoku.


Another defense heavy dino, but is far more recent than stegosaurus, being about 75 million years old. Scolosaurus remains are found across North America where it would have frolicked in a lush environment, with soil kept fertile by occasional vocanic activity.


A Cretaceous dinosaur, triceratops lived about 68 million years ago. Triceratops has a distinctive neck frill and three horns making it quite a recognizable specimen. These may have been used as defences but the discovery of blood vessels in the frill suggest they may have been able to flush them with blood and make vivid courtship displays.


Scelidosaurus is one of the earliest complete dinosaur finds, and fossils have been found in the UK down in Dorset. Perhaps our small model doesn't do this dinosaur justice, they would have grown to about 4 metres long with a series of plate like armour running along it's body.

This is just a brief glimpse at the dinosaurs in our collection. Dinosaurs: Monster Families opens on Saturday 13 February with a new family of dinosaurs for you to meet, as well as a discovery pit and the chance to touch a real dinosaur leg bone.

Tickets are on sale online from 1 February, with members enjoying free and unlimited visits to the exhibition.

What we did on our holidays…Helping Heritage Survive

Helen Merrett, our Collections Officer, writes about our work on a Regional Restoration Camp in Kosovo.

For a second year, myself and Alex took a few weeks away from the Horniman to volunteer with Heritage Without Borders (HwB) working in partnership with Cultural Heritage Without Borders (CHwB), on one of their award winning Regional Restoration Camps.

HwB is a charity organisation based at UCL and CHwB is an independent non-governmental organisation. Both are dedicated to rescuing and preserving cultural heritage affected by conflict, neglect or human and natural disaster.

For the last three-years CHwB have run a Regional Restoration Camp in Mitrovica, a town in Kosovo divided by the Ibar River. It is still an area of recent contention and the camps aim to bring communities together, as well as preserving cultural heritage.

Alex demonstrating using a microscope to investigate damage and how best to treat an object

Based in the Museum of the City of Mitrovica, the camp provides lectures on the theory of preventative conservation, collections management, remedial conservation and interpretation, as well as a lot of hands on practical work - including working with the museum’s own collections. The participants ranged from university students to local museum professionals and international heritage workers, largely from the Balkan region.

Two participants cleaning a leather miner’s bag from the museum’s collection

Alex was our fantastic Team Leader and made sure there was a brilliant range of content for the course, and also had to organise sourcing local supplies to make sure that there was real value in what we were demonstrating. The course is very practical, with sessions on marking artefacts, basic conservation cleaning and repairs, sewing covers for costumes, packing artefacts for storage and transport, and the ever popular egg packing challenge! In the mornings we would start with lectures to inform on all these subjects, and Alex led a number of sessions on ethics in conservation, pest monitoring, object drawing and material experimentation where the students got to try out a selection of conservation tools on some sacrificial materials which had had a few 'little accidents'.

Alex showing participants how to make Paraloid for marking objects

My role was focused on the importance of documenting collections – to truly understand what you have, how best to work with it and preserve it for future generations. I also discussed the ethical side of collecting, documenting and storing collections, taking in to consideration legal and sector guidelines, but also a variety of cultural factors. Along with this I was able to teach and assist with a variety of packing and handling techniques, practical documentation tasks and preventative conservation.

Creating London's Urban Jungle

Curator and researcher for London's Urban Jungle, Elle Larson, tells about her experience creating the display.


I’ve always been inquisitive about nature and researching the history of the exotic animal trade has allowed me to understand more about the history behind zoological institutions and museums, as well as our changing relationships with nature and the legacies of Empire.

It was really a chance discovery, but it has completely changed the focus of my work as a historian. I have been visiting archives ever since to try and complete the difficult task of piecing together Jamrach’s extraordinary life and his own involvement in the Victorian exotic animal trade.

At first, I started with a sweep of newspaper articles, primarily via The Times Digital Archive, to get more of an idea about what Jamrach did and how far reaching his reputation was. It soon became clear that he was somewhat of a household name and a well-known figure in animal trading networks. So the next step was to review the online archive catalogues of institutions that I thought might have traded with Jamrach.

The Times Digital Archive

I began with the Natural History Museum, South Kensington and the Zoological Society of London, later expanding this search to the Horniman Museum and Gardens, Bristol Zoological Gardens and Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archive. This is only the tip of the iceberg, but my research is an ongoing process – so watch this space.

Unfortunately from what I can tell, no purchase ledgers or other business records for Jamrach’s have survived, so I spent time visiting archives for small traces of Charles and his business dealings, mainly piecing together information based on inward bound correspondence from Jamrach to these particular institutions.

Preparing the case for London's Urban Jungle

I also began combing through digital archives such as those on Ancestry.Com and the British Newspaper Archive online which revealed more personal details about Jamrach and his family. For example, one report recalls how Jamrach’s wife disliked him keeping snakes under the bed, even in winter. Another recalls a law case brought against Jamrach for breaching his contract in regard to selling a Portuguese dealer a crocodile.

Looked at together, these sources all began to bring Charles to life and gave me insight into him as a person as well as a businessman, which hopefully London’s Urban Jungle is now able to share with you.

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